Which NBA Teams Have Been the Best So Far in 2016?
With the All-Star Break out of the way and the trade deadline looming today, it's officially time for teams to take stock of their playoff chances and to decide whether they should be buyers or sellers.
If you look at the season-long standings, some of what you see might be deceiving. Each team has played between 51 and 55 games, so their whole record doesn't really tell you how good (or bad) they've been playing lately. If you remove November and December and just look at games played since January 1st, we get a better idea of which teams are rolling and look like playoff threats, versus which are reeling and might fall out of the picture all together.
As teams prepare to make moves today, they might be focusing more on play of late, rather than the season as a whole. Here's how the standings look if using just games since January 1st, complete with each team's Net Rating (an efficiency metric that measures points scored minus points allowed per 100 possessions), their current season-long seeding (for comparison's sake), what we think their playoff chances are, and their Team nERD score.
If you're wondering, our Team nERD metric is a ranking on a scale from 0-100, with 50 as the league average. It is meant to be predictive of a team's ultimate winning percentage based on its play to date. For example, the Cleveland Cavaliers currently have a nERD of 67.2, suggesting that they're playing like a team that would have an ultimate winning percentage of .672 (for an approximate record of 55-27).
|Team||Record||W-L%||Current Seed||Playoff %||nERD|
|1||Toronto Raptors||15 - 4||0.789||2||100.0%||63.0|
|2||Cleveland Cavaliers||17 - 5||0.773||1||100.0%||67.2|
|3||Boston Celtics||14 - 9||0.609||3||99.4%||60.5|
|4||Miami Heat||11 - 11||0.500||5||89.4%||52.6|
|5||Atlanta Hawks||10 - 11||0.476||4||95.4%||57.0|
|6||Indiana Pacers||10 - 11||0.476||6||85.4%||55.7|
|7||Charlotte Hornets||10 - 12||0.455||8||79.1%||53.7|
|8||Milwaukee Bucks||9 - 11||0.450||13||1.5%||37.5|
|9||Washington Wizards||9 - 12||0.429||10||14.1%||42.1|
|10||Detroit Pistons||9 - 12||0.429||9||70.0%||55.5|
|11||Chicago Bulls||9 - 13||0.409||7||59.0%||45.6|
|12||New York Knicks||8 - 14||0.364||12||1.5%||41.4|
|13||Philadelphia 76ers||5 - 14||0.263||15||0.0%||19.2|
|14||Brooklyn Nets||5 - 17||0.227||14||0.0%||27.3|
|15||Orlando Magic||4 - 16||0.200||11||5.2%||42.9|
The Chicago Bulls are apparently looking to sell guys like Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson at the trade deadline. Once you see their record since the beginning of the new year, it's easy to understand why they're coming to grips with the what appears to be the closing of their championship window, at least for this season. Of all the teams currently in a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls have had the worst record.
The Toronto Raptors have been rolling since the calendar turned. Winners of 14 of their last 16 games, the Raps are currently only three games behind Cleveland for the 1 seed in the Eastern Conference but have had the best record among East teams in 2016.
The Orlando Magic are spiralling out of control after a promising start to the season. They have had the worst record of any team in the East in 2016, which is pretty bad when you consider they play in the same conference as Philadelphia and Brooklyn. No wonder they're making weird trades.
During the early part of the season, there was a lot of talk about the Eastern Conference matching up better with the Western Conference than in years past, but they have only had three teams playing better than .500 ball since January 1st to the West's eight.
|Team||Record||W-L%||Current Seed||Playoff %||nERD|
|1||Golden State Warriors||18 - 2||0.900||1||100.0%||87.7|
|2||San Antonio Spurs||17 - 2||0.895||2||100.0%||88.7|
|3||Oklahoma City Thunder||17 - 4||0.810||3||100.0%||72.8|
|4||Los Angeles Clippers||14 - 5||0.737||4||100.0%||68.1|
|5||Portland Trail Blazers||13 - 6||0.684||7||69.0%||49.1|
|6||Memphis Grizzlies||13 - 6||0.684||5||98.6%||48.7|
|7||Utah Jazz||12 - 9||0.571||8||75.1%||52.7|
|8||Houston Rockets||11 - 10||0.524||9||57.9%||44.7|
|9||Sacramento Kings||10 - 11||0.476||10||5.5%||42.4|
|10||Denver Nuggets||10 - 11||0.476||11||3.6%||39.9|
|11||New Orleans Pelicans||10 - 11||0.476||12||1.4%||41.5|
|12||Dallas Mavericks||10 - 13||0.435||6||88.9%||49.4|
|13||Minnesota Timberwolves||5 - 16||0.238||13||0.0%||39.9|
|14||Los Angeles Lakers||5 - 17||0.227||15||0.0%||19.0|
|15||Phoenix Suns||2 - 17||0.105||14||0.0%||25.5|
The Portland Trail Blazers have been the fifth-best team in the Western Conference (and seventh-best in the NBA) since January 1st. That's the same Blazers team that turned over their star core this past offseason and looked to be at the beginning of what could've been a long rebuild. Instead, they're in the 7 seed in the Western Conference and on the rise with one of the best backcourts in the whole Association in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
The Dallas Mavericks are sliding after a surprisingly strong start to the season. They have only been better than Western Conference basement dwellers like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Lakers, and Phoenix Suns since New Year's and might have a hard time holding off teams like the Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers, and Utah Jazz for one of the final three playoff spots. We still have them at 88.9% to make the playoffs, but that number might start slipping soon.
The Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets, and New Orleans Pelicans (the Western Conference's 10, 11, and 12 seeds, respectively) have all been playing close to .500 ball since January 1st, but their fanbases shouldn't get their hopes up too high: we still have them at 5.5%, 3.6%, and 1.4%, respectively, to make the postseason this year. Sell, sell, sell!
The Phoenix Suns have been the worst team in the Association since January 1st, and it appears that everyone on their roster who is 24 or older (and not named Eric Bledsoe) is for sale. They are one of the main teams to watch today, as it'd be pretty silly if they maintained the status quo at the trade deadline with the way things are going.